The Institute for Justice (IJ) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) issued a jointly-published guide on how lawmakers and activists can push for more school choice in their home states. In their second edition of the “School Choice and State Constituencies: A Guide to Designing School Choice Programs,” authors Richard Komer and Olivia Grady explain the legal hurdles to school choice, due to the Blaine Amendments.
Named after Maine Senator James Blaine, the amendments contain specific language that was meant to prohibit Catholics from receiving funding for their parochial schools during significant anti-Catholic sentiments in the 19th century. Although the Blaine Amendments did not make it to the U.S. Constitution, thirty-seven state constitutions have instituted this specific language. However, anti-school choice proponents have utilized the Blaine Amendment language to prevent modern school choice programs from receiving taxpayer funding, ranging from education savings accounts (ESAs), school vouchers and tax credits.
The guide breaks down the current school choice environment in each U.S. state, including the District of Columbia. It points out every state’s constitutional provisions, such as having the Blaine Amendments or other specific clauses that have been used to restrict school choice, relevant case law for precedent, existing school choice programs, and has a recommendation section.
It is a comprehensive guide for activists and lawmakers who are interested in making school choice a reality on the state level.